Two politicians are set to introduce a Vikings (or "people's") stadium bill next week. This week, they revealed their intentions with a letter that was highlighted with bullet points apparently trying to appease the anti-stadium side.
The State Legislature is ready to start discussing a Vikings stadium proposal and House and Senate members are ready to introduce the bill – Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning.
The following was sent out to legislative colleagues by the two sponsors – let's reiterate sponsors
– of the bill regarding the pending legislative battle. In a pre-emptive memo to their colleagues in the House and the Senate, the following stadium manifesto was sent:
"As we all know, the primary focus of this legislative session is to resolve the state's budget deficit and add jobs to improve Minnesota's economy. While resolving the stadium issue is of secondary importance, the matter has some urgency this session due to the fact that the Vikings' 30-year lease to play in the Metrodome expires at the end of the coming season. In addition, the collapse of the Metrodome roof underscores the problems with an aging facility and the need to develop a long-term facility plan.
"While there have been previous attempts to develop a long-term facility plan for a stadium, a plan that has not yet been adopted. Therefore, we have continued to gather input on the stadium issues from various stakeholders. Now, the time has come to move forward on a bill that offers a framework for achieving a stadium plan for Minnesota. A bill has been drafted, and we are now in the process of securing bi-partisan co-authors. Next week, the last of the omnibus budget bills will have been processed, and we will be ready to introduce the bill. The goals of the bills will be to:
Establish a governance structure for requesting proposals from local partners and choosing the best long-term facility option for the state.
Give potential local partners the options needed to reach an agreement with the Vikings.
Limit the state's involvement and require a substantial commitment from the Vikings.
Avoid increases in statewide income or sales taxes and avoid transfers from the general fund.
Have those who use or benefit from the stadium pay the state's share.
Provide need construction jobs, as well as create and retain jobs for the facility and all related economic activity.
Provide a multi-purpose stadium facility with a roof that will serve the needs of the Minnesota and keep the Vikings in Minnesota for many years to come."
After attaching a House research summary of key provisions to the bill, the memo ends with the following: "As authors of the bill, we look forward to the opportunity to move this bill through the legislative process, and we welcome your input. It is clearly understood that the final consideration of this legislation will not occur until there is a resolution to the state's budget."
In the "wordy-yet-vague" style of political writers (not politicians), it says a lot but guarantees nothing.
The document both started and ended with references that any stadium discussion will take a back seat to the current budget crisis in the state. Once makes the point. Twice puts hammer to nail with significant force. In essence, it basically gave every legislative voting member a viable excuse to say "no" to a stadium bill.
While the first two paragraphs lay out a legitimate need without touting financial benefits to have the NFL in the Twin Cities, the bullet points that followed could cause concern to those who want the Vikings to stay in Minnesota and not become another ironic Los Angeles franchise.
Let's take a look.
The two words in the first bullet item that should be noted are "local partners" – someone who will assume some of the financial responsibility (ordinarily, the word "risk" would be placed behind "financial," but the NFL isn't going away any time soon, so "responsibility" is the more appropriate word choice) away from the state. Ramsey County, Hennepin City, the City of Minneapolis – feel free to fill in your name here. But, it comes with a price.
The second bullet opens the door for the Vikings to cozy up to a partner without state support of a financing plan. Insert boxes of Anoka County paperwork here.
The third bullet is the "magic bullet" of the rounds fired. Not only does it ask to "limit the state's involvement," but it also requires "a substantial commitment from the Vikings." It's purely financial and it's explained in more detail with subsequent bullets flying past the Vikings' ship.
There is one positive bullet that uses the one key word for those interested in keeping the Vikings. "Avoid." The word isn't all-inclusive. Had the word "prohibit" instead of "avoid" been used, the deal would be dead. Instead, the door has been cracked open – state bonding money will be needed, let's face it – to allow for that potential eventuality.
The fifth bullet makes little sense in the context it is written. Those who benefit from the stadium paying the stadium's share is guaranteed – if you consider that people who attend games at the stadium and pay state taxes on everything from the tickets to the jersey to the parking to the taxes paid in the businesses that generate income from the crowds NFL games garner in the stadiums they play in, the same people identified with this bullet have already paid for the Metrodome 100 times over.
The sixth bullet was added for effect and, while important, is seemingly as obvious as bullet five. A stadium project would clearly create jobs and, after it is built and the people come, will retain jobs.
The last bullet was perhaps the most pointed toward the Vikings. In one sentence, it takes out any option of an open-air stadium – the only question is whether the roof if fixed or retractable. To date, the only official money offering allowed by the Vikings has been for one-third of the cost for an open-air stadium. Bullets 3 and 7 change that playing field almost immediately.
If this was supposed to be the document that starts the ball rolling to saving the Vikings from leaving Minnesota, it may not be enough.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.